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World South Africa's ANC set for tug of war over graft strategy

10:40  01 may  2021
10:40  01 may  2021 Source:   afp.com

South Africa: Ramaphosa testifies before the Anti-Corruption Commission

 South Africa: Ramaphosa testifies before the Anti-Corruption Commission © AFP - Themba Hadebe The South African Presiden Cyril Ramaphosa during his hearing by the Anti-Corruption Commission in Johannesburg, April 28, 2021. President Cyril Ramaphosa Past the day before an anti-corruption commission. The Zondo Commission has been responsible for investigating suspicion of fraud and corruption within the state as well as the accaparment of power by a minority.

The scene is set for a bruising battle within South Africa's ruling African National Congress after its secretary general, Elias Magashule, ignored a party deadline to quit over graft allegations.

Ace Magashule wearing a suit and tie: Elias Magashule has ignored demands to step down © GULSHAN KHAN Elias Magashule has ignored demands to step down Nelson Mandela et al. standing in front of a crowd: Nelson Mandela (C) swept to power at the head of the ANC in South Africa's first free elections in 1994 © WALTER DHLADHLA Nelson Mandela (C) swept to power at the head of the ANC in South Africa's first free elections in 1994

Magashule, nicknamed "Ace", was given a 30-day ultimatum on March 30 to resign, after he was charged with embezzling public funds at a time when he was premier of the Free State province. He denies the charges.

His fate tests the ANC's vow to cleanse itself of an image of corruption, revive confidence in South Africa's governance and restore party support at the ballot box.

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This strategy, say analysts, may succeed or founder with Magashule, 61 -- a tough-as-old-boots political infighter with a permanent scowl and an equally entrenched following.

"For the first time, the ANC is about to fire its own secretary-general. That has never happened in history," said political sciences professor Mcebisi Ndletyana.

The Magashule affair touches on the history and heart of the ANC.

The party was the force that brought South Africa's apartheid system to an end and has governed the country ever since its first democratic elections in 1994.

a close up of Cyril Ramaphosa: Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to clean up the ANC's image © RAJESH JANTILAL Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to clean up the ANC's image

Within this enclosed hierarchy, Magashule worked his way up through the ranks, starting in his home province of the central Free State and building a support network along the way.

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- Zuma era -

A crucial moment came in the early 2000s, when Magashule became the chief political confidant of South Africa's scandal-tainted former president, Jacob Zuma.

"Zuma's rise opened the way for dropping the standard when it comes to the requirements for leadership in the party," said political analyst Ongama Mtimka.

Under his regime, said Ndletyana, a corrupt official would be allowed to "indulge on party resources, so long as he paid homage to the president, to the king."

A 2017 research report entitled "Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being Stolen" labelled Magashule as one of several "elites" that built patronage networks, abetting the illegal distribution of benefits under Zuma.

Jacob Zuma wearing a suit and tie: Former president Jacob Zuma came to symbolise ANC corruption © MIKE HUTCHINGS Former president Jacob Zuma came to symbolise ANC corruption

The charges against Magashule relate to public funds that were set aside to vet government houses with asbestos roofs in 2014.

South Africa's ANC suspends Secretary General Magashule - local media

  South Africa's ANC suspends Secretary General Magashule - local media South Africa's ANC suspends Secretary General Magashule - local mediaMagashule faces corruption charges over a contract to audit homes with asbestos roofs when he was premier of the Free State province. He denies the charges against him.

The hazardous roofs were never removed, and investigators believe that the equivalent of over $12 million was pocketed.

Magashule was briefly arrested in November and granted bail on graft charges. He is next expected to appear before a high court in August.

- Saving the ANC's 'soul' -

The ANC's avowed cleanup has a long and stuttering history.

In 2017, its decision-making body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), ruled that any member or leader who had been criminally charged should either voluntarily resign or face suspension.

But it took until 2020, and two years of frustrations for Zuma's anti-graft successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, before this rule was activated.

Public outrage erupted over a series of coronavirus-linked corruption scandals involving state officials.

Presidential spokeswoman Khusela Diko and provincial health minister Bandile Masuku were among a handful of senior people who were charged and removed.

The step-aside strategy is a "battle to retain the soul of the ANC as an organisation of integrity and morality," said Mtimka.

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  S.Africa's ANC faces power struggle as top official defies suspension S.Africa's ANC faces power struggle as top official defies suspensionANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, who has denied the corruption allegations, was suspended on Wednesday by the party once led by late apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela. The move follows an anti-corruption campaign launched by Ramaphosa in 2018 when he took over as state president with promises to crack down hard on widespread graft.

He and others see a party riven by divisions between fervent supporters of Zuma -- whose prosecution for alleged corruption has been dragging on for years -- and members supporting Ramaphosa.

Magashule, a champion of Zuma, "has opposed the consolidation of power by the new president," said Mtimka.

Ramaphosa would be "vulnerable" as long as the secretary general remained in power, he warned.

"The party has no choice but to become sensitive to public perceptions about its integrity and as such needs to act in ways that reaffirm... its commitment to fight corruption and crime," Mtimka said.

Testifying before a judicial panel probing alleged state looting under Zuma, Ramaphosa on Wednesday assured the ANC was determined to end "the excesses that took place".

But some commentators have doubts, and suspect Magashule's dismissal could be endlessly delayed.

ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile said to local media last week that it would be "over-simplistic" to expect a forced resignation at the deadline.

Party spokesman Pule Mabe told AFP Magashule's fate would be discussed after the NEC received a list of "comrades" that "may be impacted" by the step-aside resolution.

"If they were to allow Magashule to remain in his position, it will be another nail in the coffin of the ANC's credibility," John Steenhuisen, head of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, warned this week.

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South Africa: Jessie Duarte, a new face at the head of the ANC .
© Reuters / Siphiwe Sibeko former President Jacob Zuma (left) and Jessie Duarte, at the 54th Congress of the ANC, in December 2017. in South Africa, following the suspension of the Secretary-General of the ANC, ACE exports, for his indictment in a corruption case, it is his assistant, Jessie Duarte, who takes over. It will provide the interim of the General Secretariat as long as Ace Mgashion will be suspended.

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